April 5, 2010

Coaches turn to new assistants for help

It all made perfect sense to former Virginia coach Al Groh. That's why he opted to join Georgia Tech's staff as defensive coordinator.

"I like Paul [Johnson]," Groh said. "I think he's a terrific coach. And this is a situation where I think I can be successful for a lot of different reasons. If that wasn't the case, then I wouldn't have taken the job."

Groh arrives in Atlanta after a mostly successful (59-53) nine-year run at Virginia. Groh's Cavaliers teams usually had strong defenses, no coincidence since that is the side of the ball he knows well.

Groh needs to improve a Yellow Jackets defense that ranked seventh in the ACC last season (360.3 ypg). The run defense needs the most work after yielding an average of 151.6 yards per game (4.9 yards per carry) to rank eighth in the ACC.

Groh was one of the top assistant hires in the offseason. Following is a look at the top five assistant hires in each of the Big Six conferences; the coaches are listed alphabetically.

Al Groh, Georgia Tech defensive coordinator.
Paul Johnson hit a grand slam in tabbing Groh, who has a sophisticated defensive mind and knows how to develop players. Groh has an intimate familiarity with the ACC after coaching Virginia the past nine seasons.
Greg Hudson, Florida State linebackers coach.
Luring Hudson from East Carolina, where he was defensive coordinator, was a coup for the Seminoles. Hudson's defenses were known for being physical, tough and forcing turnovers.
Matt Lubick, Duke passing game coordinator/receivers coach.
Sonny's son wanted the chance to work on the offensive side of the ball after coaching safeties at Arizona State. Lubick is a strong recruiter who has a fertile coaching mind.
Mark Stoops, Florida State defensive coordinator.
He almost left Arizona to become defensive coordinator at Washington after the 2008 season. Stoops finally left Arizona for the chance to work for a Seminoles program with loads of potential.
Jon Tenuta, North Carolina State linebackers coach.
Few draw up as many sophisticated blitzes and schemes as Tenuta, who knows the ACC well after serving as defensive coordinator at North Carolina and Georgia Tech before working the past two years at Notre Dame.
Mike Bajakian, Cincinnati offensive coordinator.
He's a rising star who pushed the buttons on some prolific offenses at Central Michigan in recent years. At CMU, Bajakian groomed quarterback Dan LeFevour, one of the best in MAC history.
Kerry Coombs, Cincinnati secondary coach.
New Bearcats coach Butch Jones retained Coombs from Brian Kelly's staff. Why? Because he's a good coach and one of the top recruiters in the nation.
Todd Fitch, USF offensive coordinator.
He followed Skip Holtz from East Carolina. Fitch is a fast-rising commodity whose innovative schemes will lead to a well-balanced offense.
Mike Sanford, Louisville offensive coordinator.
The former UNLV coach knows how to run an offense and will be charged with restoring this once-powerful attack.
Mark Snyder, USF defensive coordinator.
He made his name as the coordinator of Ohio State's national championship defense in 2002. Snyder's head-coaching experience at Marshall also will benefit new USF coach Skip Holtz.
Chris Ash, Wisconsin secondary.
He arrives from Iowa State to replace Kerry Cooks, who took the secondary coach position at Notre Dame. Ash is familiar with the Badgers' schemes and also is a top recruiter in the Midwest.
Gary Emanuel, Purdue co-defensive coordinator/defensive line.
It hurt to lose Terrell Williams to Texas A&M, but the Boilermakers hit a home run by hiring Emanuel from Rutgers. Emanuel held the same post at Purdue from 1997-2004, developing the likes of Anthony Spencer, Akin Ayodele and Shaun Phillips before going on to coach with the San Francisco 49ers. Plus, Emanuel is a top recruiter.
Jeff Horton, Minnesota offensive coordinator.
He's Tim Brewster's third offensive coordinator in four seasons - and he may be the best yet. Horton won't alter the Gophers' pro-style scheme, but he'll tweak it. He arrives with a fat résumé, having coached in the NFL since 2006 with the Rams and Lions. He has coached 22 years in the college ranks and was coach of Nevada (1993) and UNLV (1994-98).
Vic Koenning, Illinois defensive coordinator.
One of the top defensive minds in the game, Koenning most recently was co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State. He forged some of his reputation as coordinator at Clemson, which ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring, total defense and pass-efficiency defense in each of his four seasons (2005-08) with the Tigers.
Paul Petrino, Illinois offensive coordinator.
He learned a lot at the feet of brother Bobby, the coach of Arkansas. Paul had the coordinator title at Arkansas, but he didn't call the plays; Bobby did. This is Paul's big chance.
Brad Salem, Michigan State running backs coach.
A former graduate assistant at Michigan State, Salem returns after compiling a 31-26 record in five years as coach of Division II Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.
BIG 12
Neal Brown, Texas Tech offensive coordinator.
At 29, Brown is a wunderkind who is considered one of college football's rising stars. He coordinated some dynamic no-huddle, spread offenses at Troy before Tommy Tuberville hired him away.
Dana Holgorsen, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator.
He was the architect of the nation's most prolific attack last fall, overseeing a Houston offense that racked up 7,887 yards (563.4 ypg). Few are as innovative as Holgorsen.
Willie Martinez, Oklahoma defensive backs.
Things may not have worked out as defensive coordinator at Georgia, but Martinez still is adept at X'ing and O'ing. He initially took a spot on Stanford's staff before reversing course and joining the Sooners.
Carl Torbush, Kansas defensive coordinator.
Torbush, a former North Carolina head coach, will be a steadying force on the Jayhawks' staff. Torbush has an array of blitz packages to keep foes off-balance.
Terrell Williams, Texas A&M defensive line.
He arrives from Purdue with an underrated reputation to get the most out of his players. Williams' affable personality also makes him a top recruiter.
Vic Fangio, Stanford defensive coordinator.
He brings a wealth of knowledge, having coached in the NFL since 1986. Fangio most recently worked for Jim Harbaugh's brother, John, with the Baltimore Ravens as linebackers coach. If Fangio can upgrade a mediocre Cardinal defense, Stanford may have a chance to compete for the Pac-10 title.
Monte Kiffin, USC assistant head coach.
Though he doesn't have the coordinator title, he followed son Lane from Tennessee to run the Trojans' defense. Many consider Kiffin to be among the best - if not the best - defensive coordinators in football.
Noel Mazzone, Arizona State offensive coordinator.
It's his job to rescue a floundering offense and save Dennis Erickson's job. Mazzone is a walking encyclopedia and has coordinated offenses at four other schools.
Ed Orgeron, USC defensive line coach.
Orgeron is an unmatched recruiter and among the most intense coaches in the nation. He has the "defensive coordinator" title, but Monte Kiffin will run the show.
Clancy Pendergast, Cal defensive coordinator.
After watching Bob Gregory leave to be an assistant at Boise State, Cal coach Jeff Tedford scored big by luring Pendergast from the Oakland Raiders. He spent the past 15 years in the NFL and has an extensive history as a coordinator, having run units with the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals.
Manny Diaz, Mississippi State defensive coordinator.
He never had blue-chip talent at Middle Tennessee State, so Diaz had to think outside the box to out-scheme offenses - and he often succeeded. The ability to do more with less is what makes Diaz valuable.
Stan Drayton, Florida running backs.
This will be his second stint in Gainesville. Drayton is an underrated teacher who also excels as a recruiter.
Shawn Elliott, South Carolina offensive line.
He has big shoes to fill replacing Eric Wolford, who left to become coach of FCS member Youngstown State. Elliott is a hot coach who helped developed some powerful running games at Appalachian State.
Todd Grantham, Georgia defensive coordinator.
Mark Richt's job may be riding on how well Grantham performs. Grantham brings a wealth of experience to Athens, having most recently coached the defensive line of the Dallas Cowboys. He also was defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. It will be key for the Bulldogs to adapt quickly to Grantham's 3-4 scheme.
Scott Lakatos, Georgia secondary.
He learned from a defensive master while working for Connecticut's Randy Edsall. Lakatos is a sharp tactician who also excels at motivating.
Dave Rader, Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator.
He's a former coach (Tulsa, 1988-99) who most recently was offensive coordinator at Alabama (2003-06). Rader's vast experience will prove invaluable, especially as the Rebels develop a new quarterback.

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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